Home Nigeria Revisiting The Transatlantic Slave Trade: Story of Igbo Landing

Revisiting The Transatlantic Slave Trade: Story of Igbo Landing

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The History of Igbo Landing in Southern United States

This turbulent waters located on the Georgia coast near Brunswick Georgia  called St Simons Island will always remain indelible in minds of Historians writing about the Slave trade era in the Southern United States.This is the setting for Igbo Landing Story an intriguing story — the topic of this article.

Introduction

The story of Igbo Landing is an incredible story of resistance against the worst crime and dehumanization of man by fellow man in the annals of recorded history. This criminal adventure was committed by people who claim to be civilized and spreading civilization across the world. Let us begin by doing a brief history about the early beginning activities that culminated in Slave Trade. The discovery of the Americas led to exponential labor needs in the production of cotton, tobacco, sugar and other agricultural commodities. Europeans were attracted to West Africa primarily because of the abundance of raw materials like gold, and Ivory which they needed for commercial purposes. At that time goldmines in America would also benefit from cheap African labor. There was also the demand for cheap labor needed in the Plantations in the Americas and Europeans saw an opportunity to fill these labor demands from Africa and that set the stage for development of Slave Trade.

Europeans from various countries in Europe including Great Britain, France, Germany, Holland, Spain, Belgium,  Portugal and others would sail down the Atlantic ocean  to West Africa and to the Bight of Benin and Biafra now located in present day Nigeria with the purpose of capturing and in some cases buying native Africans  and then transporting them to America and the Caribbean Islands where the Africans were sold to waiting slave merchants in New England towns, mid Atlantic towns and deep south of the United States.

The Europeans used any crooked and criminals means available to them to acquire  these innocent people they called slaves. They brought and introduced gun powder, and firearms to the native African tribes and encouraged them to fight among themselves and in the process the Africans with weapons provided by the Europeans generally subdue one another and capture vulnerable people in the process, and then sell their brothers and sisters to the Europeans. At any rate this is not in any way a defense of the equally criminal role played by some native Africans in the slave trading era. But that matter is beyond the scope of the subject at hand.

 

In most cases the slave trade was largely done through barter process because at that time there were no money currency instruments in Africa so the Europeans brought items such as Firearms, gun powder, tobacco and other items and exchanged such items for barter slave trade.These innocent and vulnerable men and women they referred to as slaves are then transported against their will and wishes to the new World-America, and the Caribbean and other islands where the Africans were sold to waiting slave merchants for work in Cotton and tobacco plantations and other agricultural farming establishments at that era. “The island of Gorée lies off the coast of Senegal, opposite Dakar. From the 15th to the 19th century, it was the largest slave-trading center on the African coast” Other seaports slave trading establishments in West Africa included Gold Coast Castle located in present day Ghana in fact , Ghana was previous known as “Gold Coast” before its independence. Coastal towns in Republic of Benin, Togo and Western Nigeria were also big slave trading centers including ports of Lagos and Badagry .On the eastern side of Nigeria, coastal towns of Calabar and  Opobo  were significantly used as well.

The Ports in America used for slave trade  included New England ports such as Boston, and New York ports, in the mid Atlantic region ports like Norfolk Virginia and Richmond served the same purpose and port of Savannah Georgia, and Charleston South Carolina facilitated  slave trading in the region, while In the deep south the port of New Orleans served such interest. Yorktown seaport at that time served the colonial Capital of Williamsburg Virginia for slave trading.

Many seaports in Europe also served the Colonial interest in Slave trade. The largest and busiest slave trade seaport in Europe was none other than Liverpool in England.Transatlantic slave trade historians say that Liverpool handled more Slave trade expeditions than the slave seaports in France combined. Another significant seaport in terms of volume of Slave ships using it was the seaport of Zeeland in Middelburg Netherlands.  According to an article published by online website “ It is still something of a guilty secret, but Middelburg grew prosperous  from the slave trade. In the eighteenth century, ships of the  Middelburg Commerce Company, the MCC, carried more than 268,000 African  slaves across the Atlantic, returning to the home port with holds filled  with sugar, tobacco, cotton and cocoa beans”.

In France seaports like Nantes, Bordeaux, La Rochelle and Le Havre were also significant players for Trans Atlantic slave trading in France and beyond. In the United States Slave markets were established in areas of close proximity  to the seaports to facilitate the buying and selling of Black slaves from Africa .

The Story of Igbo Landing

The amazing story of Igbo Landing is an intriguing story and a resistance of the criminal enterprise known as “Slave Trade” largely done by White Europeans and their American collaborators.

Dunbar Creek in Glynn County, Georgia is the venue of one of the largest revolts and resistance of Slave Trade in Southern United States. This protest has been described by some historians as the first civil rights revolt in the United States. Here the author warns that it is incongruous and wrong for revisionists of history to simply characterize what happened in Dunbar Creek also know as- “Igbo Landing” as mass suicide because it is not a mass suicide as implied. Please follow me and as you read the story of Igbo Landing you will come to grips with my thoughts and logic to enable you the reader,  fully understand and form your own opinion about the event that unfolded at Dunbar Creek over  two hundred years ago.

In May 1803 Seventy five  Igbos and other West African natives were captured in unknown areas of Igboland with the criminal  purpose of selling these innocent men and women to slave merchants in America . A ship called “Wanderer” was waiting at the coastal areas of Bight of Biafra, The 75 men and women and other west African natives  were soon  loaded into the “Wanderer “ship all in chains and were forcibly transported to America against their will.

The Igbos and other west African natives all survived the dangerous middle passage often many do not survive the treacherous journey across the Atlantic. One advantage these captured Igbos had was their ability to discuss their plans in their native Igbo Language which the captors did not understand. Among the Igbos were two high ranking elders possibly Chiefs. One may ask how could Igbo Chiefs with their status in Igbo land be among those being sent to America to serve as slaves? Well as stated earlier when one village subdues the other thanks to weapons provided by European slave lords every one captured in the village including the village chiefs are handed over to the Europeans for slave bartering purposes.

 So the two Igbo Chiefs  talked with the rest on board about ideas on how they can escape and head back to Africa once they reached America. The Wanderer eventually made it to its destination after an estimated 2 to 3 months of middle Atlantic ocean passage. The ship docked at Savannah port in Georgia. The Igbos and others on board were sold $100 each, and were purchased by agents of Thomas Spalding and John Couper. Another smaller ship would now take them to the plantations at St Simons Island belonging to Thomas Spalding and John Couper. Still in chains, every one was transferred to the smaller ship for the journey from Savannah to St Simons Island.The ship’s crew were ready and soon the journey ensued.  But one problem remains to be solved-How could the Igbos achieve their freedom and head back to Africa when they were all chained together by the slave merchants. They hatched out a plan of what to do in their native Igbo Language to achieve their ultimate objective of going back to Africa.
Somewhere on their trip perhaps on approaching their destination at St Simons Island the Igbos managed to take over the ship what remains a mystery still is how this ship managed to reach its docking destination because according to one version of the story all the ship’s crew were drowned.
Every one on the ship disembarked still in chains they sang Igbo Songs which literally says that they will not serve the white man as slaves and that they got to America by way of the Omambala river and the Atlantic and they believed that they will all make it back to Africa through the Atlantic ocean which brought them to America.
They all marched down to the Atlantic ocean still wearing chains. Their bodies were never found one source says that out of the 75 Igbos that marched down to the Atlantic ocean on their journey back to Africa only 4  bodies ever surfaced and were recovered. Many believe that the Igbos made it back to Africa because their bodies never surfaced, generally when one drowns their body will eventually rise to the top of the water bed
Some of the inhabitants of Dunbar Creek do not allow their kids to go down to Igbo Landing site alone because there are many stories of strange voices being heard sometimes during high tides speaking an African language many believe its possibly Igbo Language. Strange stories like that gave rise to the concept of “Flying Africans” as many native residents of Dunbar Creek believe that the Igbos flew back to Africa hence their bodies never surfaces if indeed they drowned.
Atlanta Attorney and President Emeritus of CISA, Ozo Bobby Aniekwu in his interview with GPB told the news correspondent  that the spirits of 75 Igbos may be trapped in the waters of St Simons Island and he along with others performed “Rites of Passage” ceremony in 2016 for the 75 Igbos to free their spirits through traditional “Ikwa Ozu” festival. (Source GPB Station)

Special appreciation to our brothers and sisters the African descendants, the Gullah Geechee community of Dunbar Creek in Glynn County Georgia who have kept the Igbo Landing story alive for the past 200 years. Some of them have strong cultural links with Igbos. The Gullah Geechee Communities are scattered throughout the  southern coastal regions  of North Carolina, South Carolina , Georgia and Florida.

In August 11 and 12, 2023 the Council of Igbo States in America (CISA) is staging an event at Igbo Landing to Celebrate and commemorate the bravery of the 75 Igbo Men and Women who resisted and challenged the injustice and dehumanization of Humanity through European Slave Trade. All are invited. Contact CISA Planning Committee Chair Mazi Emeka Nwosu  at (757-305-7489) or CISA President James Umekwe at(301-257-4354) for more information.

 

About the author of this Article

Chief Okechukwu Paul Oranika taught Political Science and Public Administration courses at Grand Canyon University and Central Michigan University. He is the author of 5 books, among his best sellers are “Nigeria: One Nation Two Systems”, “Stock Market Investing: Beginners Guide”, and “Hedge Funds: Investment Vehicles for the Global Economy”
contact email oranika@aol.com
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1 COMMENT

  1. Thanx for this much needed history. It’s sad that this story and many many more are purposely kept off the record and out of school books. It’s up to us to teach our children, we’re seeing that fact amplified more and more. I will be sure to share what I’ve learned from this article. Respect to Chief Okechukwu Paul Oranika & the Igbo Land ancestors.

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